Over the past few years, the idea of flexible and remote work has grown in every industry, and the integration world is no exception. But managing virtual teams presents both personnel and mechanics challenges. You must keep a careful eye on how (and how often) your team members interact, and determine which projects are best suited for every individual’s skillset.
Moreover, you need to make sure remote employees have the hardware and software required to communicate with one another as efficiently as possible. Despite these challenges, the rewards far outweigh them if you learn how to effectively manage and equip your remote teams.
The Rise in Remote Teams & Tools
The number of remote workers is on the rise as companies give more weight to professional expertise over geographical proximity in the hiring process. Remote workers need tools to communicate with colleagues on an individual basis and in team environments. Available tools abound today for this purpose:
- Videoconferencing suites (often requiring increased bandwidth and sophisticated infrastructures, including multi-point control units, multiple gateways, and management software)
- Virtual meeting rooms and telepresence tools (ranging from immersive to mobile)
- Group calling/unified communications systems
- Consumer grade project management and collaboration platforms
- Other software programs (accounting and file sharing)
Tips to Actively Manage Remote Teams
Managing dispersed workers can present unique leadership challenges. Here we share five tips to help you actively manage your remote teams.
- Show appreciation. You can’t be there to buy a remote worker a cup of coffee or stop by to say “congrats,” but you can still communicate appreciation for a job well done. Consider giving an outstanding team member a personal phone call to show your gratitude. Employees who feel valued perform better, and that holds true for remote workers as well.
- Clearly define goals and expectations. Your team’s purpose should be clear from the beginning; each team member should be equipped with measurable objectives. Frequently distribute status updates so each team member is aware of group progress. Encourage communication if any circumstances or deadlines change.
- Build relationships. Don’t underestimate the power of personal relationships among colleagues. In The Conference Board’s 2014 study on job satisfaction, more than 60% of respondents said that people improved their work environments the most (even more than interest in the work itself). Although members of your remote team work separately from one another in a physical sense, you still need to foster those relationships to keep cohesion and efficiency at a maximum.
- Communicate effectively (without multitasking). Effective communication for virtual teams requires simple attention to the people and subjects that matter in the real-time conversation. Members of a remote team should not be messaging, e-mailing, or performing any other task when present in videoconferences and calls. There is a time and place for multitasking, but not during remote team collaboration sessions.
- Have routine “feedback” sessions. Perhaps you need to take a few minutes at the end of a teleconference to discuss how to make better use of company time in meetings. Or maybe longer, more structured sessions at defined intervals (quarterly, perhaps) would better benefit your team. The goal is to dissect how the team is performing and what can be done to improve, and. Whichever choice best suits your dynamic, make sure you’ve collected collaboration data, examined the findings, and made a list of proactive steps to discuss with your group.
A Worthwhile Cause
You already give your remote teams the tools and technology needed to work together. By showing appreciation, building relationships, and communicating effectively, you can foster collaboration that will lead to more efficient, successful projects. Clearly defining expectations and having routine check-in sessions to identify points of improvement will ensure that your team stays happy and continues to grow. —Dan Newman, Cofounder of V3*Broadsuite
Image by Stuart Miles